Top News from Palestine & Israel: July 8, 2021

What We’re Reading

Breaking News

Palestinian to be released after 65 days on hunger strike,

“Hunger striking Palestinian prisoner Al-Ghadanfar Abu Atwan is being released today after abstaining from food for 65 days. The 28-year-old was protesting against being held under administrative detention – imprisonment without charge or trial – by Israeli occupation forces. Al-Ghadanfar’s sister, Benazeer, and his lawyer, Jawad Boulos, confirmed that he will be released later today and the administrative detention order against him cancelled. His family has confirmed that he will not end his strike until he is with his family and outside Israeli prison.”

Israel's Bennett Secretly Met Jordan's King Abdullah, in First After Years of Strained Ties,

“Prime Minister Naftali Bennett secretly met last week with Jordan’s King Abdullah, the first meeting between an Israeli prime minister and the Jordanian king after years of strained ties between the two countries. During their meeting in Amman, first reported Thursday by Israel’s Walla news website, the two leaders agreed to turn over a new leaf in Israeli-Jordanian relations. They discussed the severe water shortage in Jordan and potential Israeli aid. Also on Thursday, the foreign ministers of both countries met and agreed that Jordan will purchase an additional 50 million cubic meters of water from Israel.” See also “Israel and Jordan Sign Water and Trade Deals in Foreign Ministers’ Meeting” (Haaretz) 

Occupation/Annexation/Human Rights

Israel demolishes family home of suspected Palestinian attacker,

“Israeli forces have demolished the family home of a Palestinian American man accused of being involved in a shooting that killed an Israeli and wounded two others in the occupied West Bank last May. Montaser Shalabi was indicted in an Israeli military court over the attack near the city of Nablus in which student Yehuda Guetta was shot dead. After an appeal in an Israeli court by Shalabi’s family against the demolition was unsuccessful, the military said, the two-storey villa in Turmus’ayya, a village in which many Palestinian Americans live, was levelled in a controlled explosion on Thursday.” For more on the Shalabi family and Israel’s use of collective punishment, listen to Lara Friedman’s recent interview with Jessica Montell of HaMoked, which represented the family in their legal struggle to save their home, “Challenging Israel’s Policy of Legalized Vengeance.” 

Israel Razes Homes of Dozens of Palestinian Families in Jordan Valley Village,

“Israel tore down on Wednesday the dwellings of about 60 Palestinians in Khirbet Humsah, a village in the Jordan Valley, and confiscated their property. There have been two previous demolition campaigns in the past year in the village, which is located in an area that Israel has declared a military firing zone….”Little children sitting under the blazing sun, what did they do to Israel? A young boy who gets heatstroke is a terrorist?” Yasser Abu al-Kabash, one of the residents whose home was destroyed, asked Haaretz. “They took everything we had,” he added.” Also see “Humsa residents threatened with arrest if they do not leave their lands and demolished homes” (WAFA) and “OCHA: Humsa demolition displaces 11 households of 70 people, including 36 children” (WAFA)

How Israel backs settlers to confiscate Palestinian lands,

“In early May, more than 50 Jewish families packed their bags and moved to a hilltop in the West Bank in the occupied Palestinian territory. They quickly erected modular homes, a synagogue, a nursery, and even dug a playground to claim a piece of land they neither purchased nor inherited….The Evyatar outpost stood out because it was illegal under Israeli law, too….Last week, the settlers were finally evicted and the Palestinians celebrated it as a victory of their resistance. Analysts, however, warned that celebrations were premature and unwarranted….The Israeli media reported Naftali Bennett, Israel’s new prime minister and a staunch supporter of illegal settlements, offered the settlers a deal – the state would ascertain whether the land can be classified as “state land” and if yes – the conclusion the state is expected to arrive at – it would be handed over to the settlers even though it lies in Palestinian villages….Hagit Ofran, executive director of the Settlement Watch programme at the Israeli NGO Peace Now, surmised it for Al Jazeera. “It was published: The settlers leave; the houses remain; the army puts up a military post; the government starts the process of declaring state lands,” Ofran said.” 


Also see: 

In a year of pandemic, Palestinian workers grapple with a virus and an occupier,

“Palestinians who work inside the Green Line or in West Bank settlements face a litany of day-to-day difficulties. If they find a job, they have to apply for a travel permit with Israel’s military authorities. Many leave their homes before 4 a.m. to line up at long and crowded checkpoints, where they are often subjected to humiliating inspections. Those who are not able to secure a permit risk crossing the West Bank separation barrier undocumented. The workers go through this ordeal knowing they can be fired and replaced at any moment. With the spread of COVID-19 since March of last year, however, those challenges have compounded. Many Palestinian workers were laid off or sent home on unpaid leave. When the Israeli government decided to shut down several of the major checkpoints to curb the spread of the coronavirus, tens of thousands of Palestinian workers were made to stay in accommodations provided by their Israeli employers for weeks, without the ability to return home….+972 Magazine spoke to five Palestinians, documented and undocumented, who work on both sides of the Green Line to understand how their lives have changed due to the COVID-19 crisis.”

U.S. Engagement

U.S. Slams Israel for Razing Home of Palestinian-American Who Murdered an Israeli,

“Israeli army forces demolished Thursday the family home of a Palestinian-American who murdered an Israeli citizen and wounded two others in the West Bank in May. The U.S. Embassy in Israel denounced the move, saying that all sides should “refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution, this certainly includes the punitive demolition of Palestinian homes. As we stated numerous times, the home of an entire family should not be demolished for the actions of one individual.”” See also “In an unprecedented move, US embassy in Israel criticizes demolition of West Bank house” (WAFA)

Bennett bristles under US criticism for punitive house demolition,

“Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office responded today to criticism from Washington concerning last night’s demolition of convicted Palestinian assailant Muntasser Shalaby’s home in the West Bank. A statement from Bennett’s office said, “The Prime Minister appreciates and respects the US government. At the same time, he acts only in accordance with considerations for the State of Israel’s security, and to protect the lives of Israeli citizens.” See also: “Bennett pushes back at US over razing of Tapuach Junction terrorist home” (Jerusalem Post)

Congress OKs budget for reopening U.S. Consulate for Palestinians,

“The U.S. Congress’ Budget Committee Thursday approved the budget for the reopening of the American Consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem.”

Inside the Green Line

Israel's Top Court Rules the Nation-State Law Is Constitutional, Denies Petitions Against It,

“The High Court of Justice denied Thursday a host of petitions challenging Israel’s Nation-State Law, which claimed it was discriminatory against non-Jews. Ten of the 11 presiding justices moved to deny the petitions, with Justice George Karra – the only Arab on the court’s bench – a dissenting voice….The Basic Law on Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, which was passed by the Knesset in 2018, enshrines a collection of declarations regarding the country’s commitment to its citizens and to Jews in the Diaspora, regarding the status of Israeli Arabs and with regard to state symbols. Its critics argued that it would allow for the discrimination of Arab citizens in the allocation of state lands, that it harms the standing of Arabic in the public sphere, and also lambasted the absence of the words “equality” and “democracy” in the letter of the law. The High Court ruled there were no grounds for intervening in the law, but added that its provisions must be interpreted in light of Israel’s other basic laws, in particular the Basic Law on the Knesset (1958), on Human Dignity and Liberty (1992) and on the Freedom of Occupation (1994), which specifically address the dual character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Israel's High Court upholds the Jewish Nation State Law,

“Israel’s High Court upholds the Jewish Nation State Law, which constitutionally enshrines Israel as the exclusive nation-state of the Jewish people and demotes the status of Arabic. Most importantly, it codifies an existing reality of supremacy that has existed here since 1948.” Twitter Thread with excellent reporting & references. 

Palestinians start applying for citizenship under family unification laws,

“Palestinians who are married to Israeli citizens but who have not been able to obtain Israeli citizenship or residency due to the Citizenship Law which the government failed to renew this week have begun filing requests for such standing with the Interior Ministry. NGOs, including the Hamoked civil rights group, have begun filing requests for citizenship and residency on behalf of their clients, and are encouraging others to do so as well. There are some 9,200 Palestinians married to Israeli Arab citizens who have the most basic “stay permits” allowing them to reside in the country but which have to be renewed every one or two years, and another 3,500 who due to special circumstances were able to obtain temporary residency visas. They will all now be able to apply for citizenship, although since the Arab population of east Jerusalem generally shuns citizenship in favor of residency those with stay permits in the city will likely request residency visas.”

High Court overturns law halting benefits for parents of teen security prisoners,

“The High Court ruled on Thursday that a 2015 law that stripped the parents of a minor Israeli imprisoned for security offenses of their welfare benefits is illegal. In a 5-4 decision, Justices Esther Hayut, Hanan Melcer, Uzi Vogelman, Daphne Barak-Erez and Anat Baron ruled that “although deterrence from committing security offenses is important, including stone throwing, the law disproportionately violates equal rights.” The measure was passed in 2015 as part of a series of moves intended to significantly beef up punishments for rock-throwers, in response to a deadly attack on a driver in Jerusalem. The law, which was mostly aimed at Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, also loosened live fire rules for law enforcement and imposed a four-year minimum sentence for adult rock throwers, as well as imprisonment and fines for those 14-17. Sawsan Zahar, an attorney with Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which filed the petition, said the law is illegal since it “creates one law for Palestinian minor prisoners and another law for minor prisoners in [other] criminal proceedings.” It “is contrary to the most basic principles of criminal law,” Zahar told Haaretz.”

Israeli government's Arab party pays dearly for place in coalition,

“Several weeks have passed since Raam made history by becoming the first Arab party to join a governing coalition, a sharp break from long tradition. The current government could not have been formed without its support. This week’s late-night drama leading up to the vote underscored the conflicts and complexities inherent to including such a party in the coalition. Raam found itself being forced to vote for a law that targets its own Arab constituents. Raam’s vote highlights the dilemma it faces in participating fully in the political game.”

Lod imam charged with inciting violence against police amid ethnic strife,

“A Lod imam was charged on Thursday with incitement in connection with social media posts that appeared to encourage violence against the police and threaten the city’s deputy mayor.”

One Man’s Crusade to Capture the Memories of an Arab Israeli Town,

“One question has always haunted Salam Mounir Diab: While most Jewish Israeli towns, no matter how small, have a museum or archive, his Arab hometown of Tamra has nothing. Diab, 42, is an artist, photographer and educator who has spent the better part of the last two decades poring over old photos. Beginning from his own photos and those of family and friends, his passion project slowly expanded until it encompassed every resident of Tamra. Today, Diab has gathered some 4,000 images and documents, which tell the story of his town from a variety of historical, social, cultural and political perspectives. In February, Diab (working with graphic designer Alaa Sammer) published “100 Years of Photography in Tamra.””

The Gaza Strip

The violence against Palestinians in Gaza doesn’t stop when the bombs stop falling,

“Adalah Justice Project’s Sumaya Awad talks with Jehad Abusalim about Gaza, the Palestinian Authority, and the US movement for Palestine in the wake of the latest Israeli aggression on Gaza. Jehad is a PhD candidate at the History and Hebrew and Judaic Studies joint program at New York University where he studies Arab intellectual writings on Zionism from the first half of the twentieth century. Jehad is also the Education and Policy Associate of the Palestine Activism Program at the American Friends Service Committee.”

Gazan children wander cemeteries for pennies,

“Hassan is one of many children who turned to begging in cemeteries because of the rising poverty rates in the besieged enclave. Food insecurity in the Gaza Strip has reached 70%, while poverty and unemployment rates have reached around 75% in 2019, with 33.8% of the population falling under the extreme poverty line, according to the Ministry of Social Development in Gaza.”

Commentary // Long Reads

Why does the JNF still exist?,

“The forefathers of Zionism never hid their desire to use organizations like the JNF to dispossess Palestinians. On the occasion of its 120th anniversary, now is the time to abolish the Jewish National Fund.”

'We Saw Jews With Hearts Like Germans': Moroccan Immigrants in Israel Warned Families Not to Follow,

“Thousands of letters written in the early years of the state by immigrant soldiers to their families in Morocco reveal a gloomy picture. Most wanted to go home.”  For more on Dr. Shay Hazkani’s new book, Dear Palestine: A Social History of the 1948 War (Stanford University Press, 2021), watch or listen to FMEP’s recent webinar, in which he was a guest: “Palestinians, Israelis, 1948, & Now: On Researching, Teaching, and Asserting the Reality of the Nakba.”